A Year in Review
Starting a farm from scratch is no easy task: it requires acquiring livestock, building out infrastructure, developing systems and, most importantly, beginning to learn about the land. Our goal this year was simple, get animals on the ground and begin the process of restoring pastures through rotational grazing with multiple species. Much of the land had been either overused or completely neglected causing soils to become depleted of the nutrients and microbes that sustain the grasses. This year, in combination with the animals impact, we also had to mechanically mow down well established stands of goldenrod, which thrive in the acidic soils. Mowing allows for the sun to reach the ground and encourage dormant grass seed banks to grow and compete for soil nutrients.
I am happy to report that our efforts this first year prove promising. Our pigs have enjoyed rooting and disturbing soils. The cattle, sheep, and goats have done well with limited resources, eating and clearing marginal forage. This is laying down nutrient rich manure, which over time will feed the soils.
We acquired and established breeding stock of Lowline Black Angus cattle, a unique breed of sheep called Cascade Landrace, young Sannan Dairy goats (which we bottle raised to be our brush and goldenrod destroyers), and have two groups of breeding pigs. We began with 3 Idaho Pasture Pigs, which is a very new breed that was developed to thrive on grazing pasture. Then we added 5 Gloucester Old Spots, a heritage breed consisting of a pig well known for being docile, good mothers, and foragers, often referred to as orchard pigs. We raised about 250 laying hens, and about 500 meat chickens, 40 heritage breed Bourbon Red Turkeys for Thanksgiving, 20 ducks for egg production and 50 Muskovy ducks for meat. All of which have played an important part in our efforts to help restore the health of our soils, while also providing a great bounty of healthy, happy and nutritious meat.
The first year is always the most difficult, but because of the support of everyone involved, from farmers on the ground, to those who have supported us with buying and enjoying what we produce, we are excited for the future. Winter is a time to step back, take stock of the season, plan for the next, and recharge the batteries. We are lucky to be adding staff to help move us to our high standards that we strive for in animal husbandry and land management. Daniel Cunningham is a friend, former chef, Viking descendant and has been a great help this past year in a part-time capacity. I am looking forward to having him around on a full-time basis. Arielle Pasquier, a former colleague from Queens Farm, joins us on a part-time basis this winter. She brings strong experience in animal husbandry as well as vegetable and flower growing. Here’s to a great 2018 season! We look forward to sharing our bounty and our farm with all of you.